Posts Tagged ‘spelling’

“Pokemon Go” Articles Need Copy Editor

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Pokemon GoThe Birmingham News must have been in a hurry to rush its Pokemon stories to press on Wednesday. Their copy on Page A2 is full of errors. The first Glitch is in a headline:

"Games digital popularity also warping real life"

Whoops! #1: Assuming the headline creator means the digital popularity of Pokemon Go (one game), this headline needs an apostrophe before the S in "Games." It should read this way: Game's digital popularity also warping real life."

Whoops #2: Although I am not a Pokemon expert (yet), I do know that the phrase "a Pokemon" refers to one creature and that THEM is a plural pronoun referring to more than one of something, like Pokemon (plural) in general. Consider this sentence"

"Once you catch a Pokemon, you can take them to a gym where they can battle other Pokemon."

Okay, so what pronoun is appropriate for a single captured Pokemon? I'm not sure that has been worked out yet–it? she? he? The best solution, for now, is to avoid the pronoun completely, like this: Once you catch a Pokemon, you can take your captive to a gym for battles with other Pokemon.

Whoops #3: I had to read this sentence a couple times to figure out what the reporter was trying to say. One apostrophe and the correct spelling of THAN would have solved the confusion:

"AR (augmented reality), as its known, is different that virtual reality in which a completely computer-generated world is created."

It should read this way: AR, as it's known, is different than virtual reality in which a completely computer-generated world is created.

Whoops #4: Subject/verb agreement is the crime in this sentence. PERMISSIONS is plural, but the reporter chooses the singular verb MEANS to go with it:

The permissions, according to Engadget, means Niantic has access to your Google drive docs, search history, private Google photos and other items tied to your account."

For grammatically correct agreement, the sentence should read this way: The permissions, according to Engadget, mean Niantic has access to your google drive docs,….

Whoops #5: The reporter of the side story made the correct choice with  IT'S (IT + IS) but failed to recognize that the second ITS (correctly possessive) refers to the plural word PEOPLE.

"Niantic issued a statement assuring people it's not accessing its personal information and will only have access to a person's Google user ID and password."

The problem here is that the use of ITS makes it sound as if Niantic is not accessing Niantic's personal information, but they are referring to the PEOPLE'S personal information. It should read this way: Niantic issued a statement assuring people it's not accessing their personal information and will only have access to people's user IDs and passwords.

Whew! And all those Glitches appeared on ONE page.

Reporter locates apostrophe correctly, then forgets the rule before the end of the sentence.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

One short article about taxes and sewage contains two Glitches.

Here is the first Glitch, which is puzzling because the reporter uses the apostrophe correctly in the first part of the sentence but then uses it incorrectly later in the same sentence:

Evans also said he met with the USDA about the agency's grant and loan programs to help with the towns old sewage system.

It is correct to show that the PROGRAMS belong to the AGENCY (agency's programs). Okay, so why would it not be correct to refer to the SEWAGE SYSTEM as belonging to the TOWN (town's old sewage system)? The sentence should read this way:

Evans also said he met with the USDA about the agency's grant and loan programs to help with the town's old sewage system.

This same reporter does not know the difference between THERE (location) and THEIR (possessive). Here is the second Glitch:

The USDA told the town in there meeting that they needed an audit to go forward.

Whoops! The meeting belongs to the town, so it should be spelled THEIR.

What is the value of one “M”? Spelling error costs one county $4,000.

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Some say spelling does not matter in today's world of shortened messaging, but at least one county government thinks spelling is important enough to pay $4,000 plus ten days' labor costs to add adhesive labels with a needed "M" to ten signs with the word COMMISSIONER spelled incorrectly, My thanks to regular reader Joe C. for sharing this article.


Newspapers Still Need Copy Editors!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Newspaper reporters and columnists can no longer rely on copy editors to polish their usage and grammar. More than one of them has actually thanked Grammar Glitch Central for pointing out an error or two. There should be someone at the newspaper office whose job it is to know good writing standards and apply them while proofreading. These days that is not happening. Reporters write their own copy, do their own proofreading, and click SEND.

Recently, a new problem is cropping up. Even if the reporters get it right, whoever creates the photo captions, headlines, and sidebars is making careless errors that detract from the quality of the reporting. That person ought to have a good command of standard writing skills and a desire to proofread for correctness. In ONE issue of The Birmingham News this past week, the following errors appeared in headlines, captions, and sidebars:

Whoops #1: In an article about the gyrocopter that landed in DC, the Tribune News Service reporter correctly stated that the pilot must stay away from the CAPITOL (the building), but the photographic caption says that "Doug Hughes landed on the grass in front of the United States CAPITAL on Wednesday." CAPITAL refers to the entire city. CAPITOL is the building in front of which Hughes landed.

Whoops #2: Columnist Edward Bowser correctly named the Birmingham Children's THEATRE when he referred to it numerous times in his article about their wonderful program of taking performances to schools. However, the headline for his column is this: "Birmingham Children's THEATER brings magic of stage to schools." Perhaps the incorrect spelling of a proper name is not a big deal, but I'm sure that group consciously chose to use the THEATRE spelling, and it would not have taken the headline creator more than a minute to check the website for the proper spelling–especially since Bowser had handed that person the correct spelling.

Whoops #3: In Mike Oliver's creepy but informative article about Alabama's 58 spider varieties, Mike correctly spelled RECLUSE when he listed the brown recluse as one of the three highly venomous spiders in the state. However, the caption next to the photo of this spider refers to it as the Brown RECLUDE Spider.

Whoops #4: In a sidebar that summarizes the details of an article about Alabama's pro-life legislature and the abortion issue, the first bullet contains this grammatically incorrect sentence: "Women must receive counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion." WOMEN is plural. Therefore, the correct pronoun would be THEY. The sentence should be worded one of two ways: 1) WOMEN must receive counseling to discourage THEM from having ABORTIONS. or 2) A WOMAN must receive counseling to discourage HER from having an abortion.

Whoops #5: Those who create photo captions should understand where commas should go and, more importantly, where they should not go. One comma "rule" is that, if a title comes before a person's name, it is not necessary to set that name off (like an appositive) with commas. A second "rule" is that a subject should not be separated from a verb by a comma. In this sentence from a caption about a tour of a school campus, the comma between WILLIAMS and LEADS is incorrect: "Here, former Hoover schools Superintendent Connie Williams, leads faculty and parents from Shades Mountain Christian Schoool on a tour…."

It should not be unreasonable to expect a better level of correct usage than this. These are not acceptable errors.

A Matter of Trust–and Needed Proofreading (even on a rug)!

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

My thanks to regular Glitch reader Joe C. for sharing this hilarious example. Yes, even rugs need proofreading sometimes! My friend Linda Beam, who blogs at and has a Facebook page called Write to the Point, also shared this example.

dog trustTake a close look at this rug, which graced the floor of the Pinellas County (Florida) sheriff's office for several months before a deputy noticed that the phrase below the state insignia reads, "IN DOG WE TRUST."

The error is a simple reverse of letters, but it is a big Whoops!

Joe reports that the rug will now be auctioned off, with proceeds going to a local animal rescue entity.

Hopefully, a new position–Pinellas County Proofreader–will be established soon.


To use or not to use? (A grammar checker, that is.)

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

brain in gear

I use Grammarly's grammar checker because I don't want to misplace a comma and end up eating Gramma (as in "Let's eat Gramma!" instead of "Let's eat, Gramma!").

When I teach business writing workshops, I often remind participants to use grammar checkers with “brain in gear.” A grammar checker can point out possible problems in your writing, but if you choose to use one, you must have enough self confidence to recognize when the grammar checker has misinterpreted your meaning. After all, grammar checkers are NOT human, and they don’t catch all the nuances of what we humans write.

That said, I recently reviewed, which bills itself as “the world’s most accurate online grammar checker.” I tried it out on several pieces of my own writing as well as a newspaper article. It spotted one overlooked typo and offered good suggestions for two overly wordy sentences. It also detected an incorrect indefinite article (A vs. AN). However, it declared EVERY proper noun I used (e.g. TALLASSEE, TUKABAHCHI, and WOODALL) to be a misspelling. Using the scoring system to rate myself, I ended up with a horrible score, based mostly on properly spelled proper nouns that were declared incorrect. failed to spot a missing apostrophe in this sentence from an article about new education standards in Alabama:

“The change is intended to more closely align students education with the ACT, improving high school seniors’ scores….”

SENIORS’ SCORES is correct, with the apostrophe after the S, but STUDENTS EDUCATION should also be possessive (STUDENTS’ EDUCATION). As I write this, I see that the Word grammar checker put a green squiggly line under that one, but overall, I don't think Word's grammar checker is as effective as this one. also missed the incorrect plural form in this sentence:

“However, the director of student academic support at Auburn University said low ACT scores tend to be a better indicators of which students won’t perform well in college than high ACT scores are of which students will do well.”

A BETTER INDICATORS (plural) should be simply BETTER INDICATORS without A in front.

I do think does an excellent job of explaining the errors it spots, and the examples it offers for correction are clear and easy to understand. As someone who writes virtually every day, I would say Grammarly could be a useful tool IF you keep your own brain in gear and view Grammarly as a helper rather than a quick cure for all errors. 

PRINCIPLE or PRINCIPAL? An Easy Tip for Remembering Which is Which.

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Because both PRINCIPLE and PRINCIPAL are legitimate words, a spell checker will not pinpoint your error if you use the wrong one. The good news is that, like CAPITOL and CAPITAL, there is any easy way to remember when to use which one.

PRINCIPLE  is a noun that has only one meaning–a basic rule or standard, as of good behavior. Here are some examples of using it correctly:

The judge will not compromise his principles.

She based her decision on principle rather than greed.

Our country operates according to the principles of democracy.


PRINCIPAL has several usual meanings–the head of an elementary or high school (noun), highest in rank or worth (adjective), the main participant (noun), describing the person having a starring role in a production (adjective), the capital or main portion of a financial holding (noun). Here are some examples of using it correctly:

Melissa Jones is the principal  at Valley Elementary. 

Paul is the principal partner in that firm.

The briefing included all of the principals involved in the transaction.

Smetlana is the principal ballerina with that company.

Our invested principal  is no longer earning seven percent interest. 


Just remember: PRINCIPLE has only one meaning. Everything else will be PRINCIPAL.



Sloppy proofreading detracts from company image

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy New YearFirst, I'd like to wish all of my Grammar Glitch Central readers a Happy New Year. May your writing be error-free and easy to read in 2013. Many thanks to those who have taken time to comment during 2012. Your observations and questions always add value to this blog.


Today's Grammar Glitch point involves an advertisement for a spa and hot tub company that contains several glaring errors. Simple proofreading should have caught these and kept them from downgrading the company's public image.


GRammar Glitch on spas

 Unfortunately, the first error occurs glaringly in large print. The city name should be BIRMINGHAM, ending in M, not N.

The second error is at the beginning of the final sentence. OVER 20-MODELS ON DISPLAY is poorly worded and punctuated. There should not be a hyphen between 20 and MODELS. The number 20 simply modifies the word MODELS. Perhaps space was the issue here, but the phrase MORE THAN works much better than OVER here.

The third error is a verb form error. CHOSE is the past tense verb, but the buyer would CHOOSE in the present. Also, I believe the word FROM is missing here.  The buyer is not choosing 4 colors or 8 acylic colors. The buyer is choosing FROM among those options.

Here is my edited version of that last sentence:

More than 20 models on display. Choose from 4 different cabinet colors and 8 different acrylic colors.



Customer Service response drowns in Usage Glitches!

Friday, December 30th, 2011


Yesterday's email contained a response from the customer service department of a national health insurance company. I appreciated the quick and courteous response, but I was appalled at the poor usage and casual slang.  Please note that a spell checker would not have caught any of the four errors in the two sentences below:

Please allow a couple days and then send me another email to check the statue.

We apology for the delay and any inconvenient you may have had.

 Whoops #1: A COUPLE DAYS is too slang and casual for a professional business response.  ONE OR TWO DAYS (or A FEW DAYS) would be a better choice.

 Whoops #2:  I cannot imagine why this insurance company would want me to check a STATUE. Perhaps if it was Washington Mutual, and George was outside the front door? The word needed in this sentence is STATUS, meaning the current situation with my inquiry, not STATUE.

Whoops #3: APOLOGY is a noun, as in, "We owe you AN APOLOGY." The word needed here is the verb APOLOGIZE to go with the subject WE.

Whoops #4: INCONVENIENT is an adjective and can only be used where it would describe a noun, as in the title of Al Gore's movie, "An INCONVENIENT Truth." (INCONVENIENT describes TRUTH.) In this sentence, a noun (INCONVENIENCE) is needed so that the noun DELAY and the noun INCONVENIENCE are both objects of the preposition FOR.

These two sentences should read as follows:

 Please allow one or two days and then send me another email to check the status.

We apologize for the delay and any inconvenience you may have had.

Wish me luck on the STATUS of my inquiry. I sincerely hope the actions of this company are more professional than its words!

FIVE typos in one advertisement! Whoops!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Some people think I am overly picky about correct grammar and usage, but I believe most everyone would agree that the ad I've reprinted here is unacceptable. A spell checker, used by either the tinting company or by the newsletter editor who printed this ad, would have caught all five spelling/typos Glitches.


Whoops #1: When converting DAMAGE to DAMAGING, the writer should drop the E before adding ING.

Whoops #2: IBLE and ABLE are similar suffixes that can be added to the end of a word. VISIBLE uses the IBLE suffix, not ABLE.

Whoops #3: The prefix that means "across" is TRANS, not TRAN, so this word should be TRANSMISSION.

Whoops #4: The word EXPERIENCE has four syllables, so the "I" cannot be left out.

Whoops #5: The word REFERENCES comes from the word REFER, so the "E" between the "F" and the "R" cannot be left out.

Whoops #6: Commas always go inside the quotation marks in the USA, as in "Products,"

Whoops #7: It is not a good idea to put quotation marks around the words PRODUCTS, SERVICE or WARRANTY in an advertisement.  Quotation marks around a word suggest that it is a substitue for the real thing, which is the exact opposite of what is meant.

The Grammar Glitches above should be corrected this way:

  • Reduce damaging UV rays
  • Visible Light Transmissions

Over 50 years combined experience!

Licensed & insured with references in your community!

We offer the Very Best in Products, Service & Warranty in the Business!